REGINA – Scrutineers in advance polls in Regina’s wastewater referendum have reported that polling clerks are instructing voters on how to answer the referendum question.
In at least two cases, a clerk offered the instruction, “Vote yes for Regina Water Watch, vote no for City Council,” while handing the ballot to voters. When Regina citizen Mary Arpin went to vote, the poll clerk gave unsolicited conflicting information, ending with the comment, “a 57 million dollar difference.”
Poll clerks are not allowed to indicate how a person should vote, nor to give information on behalf of either candidate or position. The comment clearly gave a voter the NO side messaging promoted by the City.
“This is deeply concerning,” said Regina Water Watch spokesperson Jim Holmes. “We’ve been getting reports of the City conducting secret polls at seniors’ complexes and care facilities around the city that we have been barred from observing. Have they been repeating the Mayor’s campaign messaging while handing out ballot cards? Will they be doing so when regular polls open on Wednesday?”
Regina Water Watch is calling on the City Clerk to get agreement before September 25 between Water Watch and the City administration on how the ballot question will be summarized for voters. The clerk should instruct all poll clerks that there should be no deviation.
One suggestion is “Vote YES means keeping the wastewater treatment plant publicly financed, operated and maintained; Vote NO means entering into a partnership with a private corporation that will finance, operate and maintain the plant for 30 years.”
“These sorts of irregularities could prejudice the results of the referendum. We call on the City Clerk to ensure that the Election Act is upheld,” says Holmes.
Holmes says that even more troubling are reports from the seniors’ residences where voters were not provided the legally required secret place to mark their ballot. At one residence Water Watch was only allowed to speak to residents days after the ballots had been distributed and mostly collected. Some residents claimed the Mayor had spoken to them immediately before the ballots were distributed. Regina Water Watch had requested to have observers present during all of the special polls, but was denied.
When asked in August, the City Clerk stated it would not be possible to send residents the usual voter card telling them their poll information. Holmes notes that the City has just sent out VOTE NO cards that tell voters how to vote, unlike regular poll cards telling them only where to vote.
Advance polls ran yesterday, with polls open across the city on Wednesday September 25.